What Makes a Teacher?

As I reflect on this past weekend, I begin to fully understand the meaning of the word teacher. A teacher isn’t defined by a degree but rather by the actions and methods used to further a person’s knowledge on a topic. A person doesn’t need a degree but rather a passion for what they love.

My Uncle Sean was a teacher in my life. He did not have a degree in education, but rather his passion and joy of music, theatre, and life is the tool that allowed him to be a teacher.

If you know me, you probably know the music that I listen to. If you didn’t know me, you would probably never guess the style of music that I listen to. I enjoy listening to alternative, Ska, Irish rock, classic Oldies, showtunes, and many others. How did I come into most of this music? Well, simply because my Uncle Sean taught me to appreciate and value all different kinds of music!

One of my favorite stories about my uncle was when we were at a Barenaked Ladies concert at Blossom Music Center. We were sitting in the pavilion and the crowd was around 18,000-19,000. Now, my uncle was an on-air radio personality and music director for a couple of radio stations in Cleveland. My uncle would pick and choose what songs were to be played. My uncle was the first person to play Barenaked Ladies on the Cleveland airwaves and quite possibly in the United States. When we were standing there at the show, he looked at me and said “None of these people would be here if it wasn’t for me.” I was like, “Wow…you can actually say that because you started playing them!” That showed me that you can take risks and attempt to be the first to do something and who knows what success you might have!

Another way Uncle Sean taught me was through enjoying life. Some may think of me as a quiet individual while others may see me as quite outgoing. Well, I get that from my uncle. There were many times when I would be at his work and karaoke was going on. Well, I do enjoy singing (I’m not that good at it) but I don’t necessarily have the confidence to go do it. If I needed support, my Uncle Sean would get up and sing with me. We’d sing “Mack the Knife” or “Birdhouse in Your Soul”. That was the support I needed to get up and perform in front of others. He taught me to enjoy the moment and get up and share what you want, even if you think you are not that good at it!

My Uncle Sean also taught me a lot about the city of Cleveland. You may be wondering how he did this…well, I will tell you. My uncle worked for a promotions company. One of his jobs was to deliver products for promotions to different locations around the city of Cleveland. Well, since I was typically free during the week and in the summer, Sean asked me to assist him by driving around with him. We would usually start off our days by grabbing a bite to eat somewhere (always great learning about new restaurants in the area) and then going to the storage unit to pick up the products. We would then drive around the city of Cleveland and surrounding areas dropping off materials. We would travel to the far east side, through downtown, and then over to the far west side. I had great conversations and learned about the amazing city we live in because of the invaluable time I had on our journeys. We developed so many inside jokes from these times “The cups are in the van.” “You know what I always say??” “If I had a nickel for every time I said that.” Having a great relationship was when learning was happening.

These are just a few of the ways that Uncle Sean taught me about life. I’m sure I could keep going, but I just want you to reflect more on the people in your life that do not have a degree in education but are the teachers in your life. My Uncle Sean sure is a teacher.

Author: acottos

I'm a 4/5 social Studies teacher who is passionate about education and working for what is best for students. I am an aspiring educational leader who is looking forward to working as a principal or school leader to help further the education of my students and staff.

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